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Senate District 3 Candidate Profile: Corey Simon

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WFSU News
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Corey Simon, CEO of Volunteer Florida and retired NFL player, is running for Florida Senate District 3.

Republicans are counting on Tallahassee sports legend Corey Simon to flip the city’s state Senate district red.

“We’re excited about the race. It’s obviously a winnable race,” said Leon County GOP Chairman Evan Power. “We have a high-profile name with Corey Simon.”

Simon isn't facing a GOP primary challenger. He quickly received the backing of Gov. Ron DeSantis to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley for Senate District 3, which leans less Democratic after lawmakers drew new legislative district boundaries earlier this year. In 2020, DeSantis appointed Simon to serve as CEO of Volunteer Florida, a role which has given him experience working with state agencies.

“Having all those things combined makes Corey a very exciting candidate for us as Republicans,” Power said. “It’s a great opportunity to flip a district that is very winnable for us.”

This is Simon's first run for public office. The 45-year-old political newcomer says he's running because of his "passion for people."

“This race is about the ideals that I have and the community that we serve," Simon said. "Incumbent versus the candidate that’s the politics of this. I’m in this for the people.”

Experience

Right now, Simon is CEO of Volunteer Florida, the agency that administers AmeriCorps programs across the state. In this role, he's gained experience coordinating with state agencies, including the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Education. “I’ve worked with all of them in different initiatives to improve the lives of the communities that we serve across the state," Simon said. “That is part of the process. It is finding a way to bring down the silos of government."

For nearly 11 years, he’s served as president of Big Bend Pop Warner, the local affiliate of a national nonprofit athletics organization for children. He also started a local charity called Corey’s Kids.

Before joining the NFL, Simon played football for Florida State University. “Coach [Bobby] Bowden and his passion for service wasn’t lost on me, and I engaged in the community,” said Simon, who settled in Tallahassee after retiring from the NFL. “It’s where I’ve always felt comfortable, where I’ve always felt loved and wanted. I thought it was a great place to raise a family.”

Background

Simon was born in Boynton Beach in 1977 and raised by his mother, who worked full-time as a deli manager at Publix. "My mother worked tremendously hard."

Simon's upbringing helped him understand the struggles that many working families face. “For many of our single parent homes or even some of our two parent homes, those struggles haven’t changed a whole lot,” he said. “It’s still about those issues of putting a roof over the head of their kids. It’s about putting food on the table. And it’s about putting gas in their vehicles so they can get to and from work.”

Simon says his "passion for people" developed at a young age. "I had a high school coach that really took me under his wing," he said. In college, he says Coach Bobby Bowden instilled in him a "passion for service."

Simon played for the Seminoles between 1996 - 1999. He was a standout defensive lineman.

In 2000, he began his eight-season career in the NFL playing for the Philadelphia Eagles. Simon also played for the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts. He retired in 2007 and began working in the private sector. He has a bachelor's degree in library and information science from FSU.

Issues

Before developing a platform, Simon says he wants to get feedback from voters across the 13-county Panhandle district. "These are not my thoughts and feelings that are going to the Senate. These are the communities that I serve and their thoughts and feelings," he said. "I think too often we get politicians who think they know what everybody is dealing with, and I want to sit down and listen.”

Simon's campaign website doesn't yet include a list of issues, and he didn't feel comfortable diving into the issues with WFSU News until he's spent more time on the campaign trail.

However, he did explain his motivation for joining the Republican Party, and that was the issue of school choice. “I saw that as something that the party really got behind and really stood behind,” he said. “I saw that as a way to propel our families forward. That’s why I stand where I stand.”

He says his mother had to use her work address to get him in a better school when he was growing up. “That was never lost on me,” he said. “ I could never understand why a kid was relegated to a school because of his zip code or her zip code. Our families should have the opportunity to pick the best school for their children.”

Simon also cited current economic challenges like high gas and food prices as important for lawmakers to address.

"All of our folks are facing a very tough economy," he said. "Families are struggling to put food on the table and fuel in the cars."

Simon's campaign has raised $9,950 in individual contributions. Of that, $5,000 comes from the Florida Republican Party's Senatorial campaign financing committee. Simon has $8,007 on hand.

He says his time as CEO of Volunteer Florida will end soon, and he will turn more of his attention to his campaign. "I will be hitting the road and spending time with our families."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.